I have been dancing now for 26 years and have been approached by more and more people since I have been at the Joffrey. I think people appreciate my dedication and complete commitment to my form, for which I am incredibly grateful because this is constantly what I am trying to get across. I enjoy and appreciate it when people approach me to ask questions….even the question wondering what it takes for a 6’6″ man to keep supporting ballet instead of slam dunking on a basketball court, lol.
I feel fortunate to be appreciated at all and I don’t have any concern about anybody coming up to me, pretending to know me or wanting to know me. It’s almost a blessing to have social media to make myself more accessible to people as it breaks down any barriers people might have to approach me. They come toward me with their mind set, determined to do the move, determined to finally talk to me, interested in something in particular, with many questions for themselves or their children who may be in dance…and sometimes it feels like it’s safe to ask whatever you want because I want to talk about dance, about my life, about why art is important, etc.
I do love all my fans because they are the ones that make me, that make my performance worthy. I am happy to know them even if it is just in small ways so they can better appreciate what I do everyday, so they can come back to me (pretending to know me or not) shake my hand and talk about how they felt during the show, talk about how hooked they are, how happy it made them, give their opinions on the work, share disappointments about it, etc, or even ask to simply hang out and get to know more.
I love to see people smiling, thrilled about something, and even surprised by what they see. The best compliment I ever got was from a straight man that was forced to come see Othello because his girlfriend wanted to see it. He came backstage after the show and was thrilled to shake my hand, repeating to me that he had no clue how amazing this could be and that he had the wrong idea about dance. He had never seen such athleticism, and I even think he was more excited than his girlfriend! It was a very cool moment for me….you know when you see a long time Chicago Bears fan give you a thumbs up you are doing something right 🙂
So to really answer your questions, I don’t think it is difficult or have any feeling of discomfort when people approach me. In fact, my best friends are my biggest fans :)….it’s nice to have that kind of support.
Ballet is one of the hardest sports (yes, I just said sport) in the world, and when it comes to athleticism, dancers are right up there with any athlete you can think of. Maybe it’s because it’s also an art form or maybe it’s because people seem to think that the more muscle and muscle mass you have, the more atheltic you are, but dancers are equally well defined and very sharply toned. Dancers don’t get to those incredible physical shapes no matter how much they work out, but we have a shape and an athleticism that is unique to what we do that enables to actually do what we do.
For me, my ethnicity helps me stand out having been born to an eastern Caribbean (Guadeloupe) mother and a French father. I am half white, half black and somehow when those two specific gene pools combine, you get a 6’6″ avatar, lol. But coming back to my work out habits, I work out a little everyday, but not necessarily how you think (time at the gym, etc). I spend 30 min every morning before work and every night before bed stretching, doing abs, push ups, etc that I can do essentially anywhere, anytime. I do not lift weights as ballerinas are enough for me to lift everyday :). That’s just me though, but there are some dancers that do belong to gyms and work out their upper bodies as they are not lifting or partnering (ballet term) as much. Everyone finds the workout routine that suites their body and gives them the strength and success they need. For some people that takes less, some people more…it’s no different than everyone else, ie. some people workout a lot to maintain their physique and others (that everyone hates!) can do nothing and look great. But for us, no matter what, we have to keep working our bodies in some capacity (even on vacation) to stay in dancing shape.
So I spend extra time in the morning and night doing a few exercises and stretches, but remember that I do spend every day from 10am-6pm dancing (it is a job afterall). The body works out in so many ways doing ballet, and with that comes mental pressure as well thinking about what you have to do. We are constanly trying to do the best and become familiar with the work that sometimes it brings more tension and work to our bodies than necessary. And when you overheat, you sweat more, and believe me I am a big sweater, lol. I burn off a lot throughout the day and to replace this I eat a lot and drink a lot of gatorade to correct my electrolyte imbalances.
It is a constant extreme workout at the Joffrey, partnering all the time, and pushing myself and my potential further every time I go on stage. Damn I love my job 🙂